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Andrew Farach-Colton
Gramophone, November 2019

These recent concertos demonstrate Tsontakis’s remarkable ability to absorb and transform sources as disparate as klezmer and popular song. Conductor Miller is one of the composer’s most ardent champions. Many of the composer’s early works, including the magnificent Four Symphonic Quartets, were issued on the now-defunct Koch label and are well worth hunting down. © 2019 Gramophone

Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide, March 2018

George Tsontakis’s music is fascinating, never dull, always in motion. And I am impressed by the playing of the Albany Symphony. © 2018 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Phillip Scott
Fanfare, January 2018

Anasa was written for the musician who performs it here, David Krakauer, well known for his interest in the klezmer tradition of Jewish folk music. Tsontakis combines this influence with one of his own—Greek folk music—to produce distinctive rhythms, familiar melodic tropes, and a particular style of clarinet playing that takes the instrument into what might be termed its squealing range. Krakauer plays with great skill and tremendous conviction, and the whole piece is a lot of fun…

In the two movements of the trumpet concerto, True Colors, the first of which is a short, preliminary prelude, Tsontakis plays on the two “true colors” of the instrument well known to American ears: the fanfare-like statement, and hot jazz licks. Soloist Eric Berlin is equally adept at producing a bright gleaming tone for the first, and raw, brash power for the second. Reflecting this musically, Baroque-era melodic gestures combine with jazz-tinged harmonies. The composer integrates these elements with a sure touch.

The double concerto, Unforgettable, is a more subdued affair. Here, two equal protagonists complement each other through imitation, maintaining a conversational relationship throughout. The orchestra provides a somber background, notably in the first movement, “Changing Landscapes,” and while Tsontakis’s textures are as beguiling as ever, they are of a darker hue in this work. The lyrical outpourings of the final movement, “Ballade,” are not far removed from the soaring lyricism of the Violin Concertos by Barber and Walton. © 2018 Fanfare Read complete review

James H. North
Fanfare, January 2018

All the performances are exceptional, from the soloists and from David Alan Miller’s Albany Symphony, which has become America’s beacon for new music. Listening through this disc again, one is struck by how well each concerto captures the character of its solo instrument(s). That’s something that should go without saying, but it’s not often the case; it speaks to Tsontakis’s abilities as well as his sensibilities. He has been a while earning his place at the table: He’s 67. Let’s hope George Tsontakis continues to produce meaningful music. We need it. We need him. © 2018 Fanfare Read complete review

Tom Huizenga
National Public Radio, December 2017

NPR Music’s Top 10 Classical Albums of 2017: #7

The concerto. It might be a 400-year-old game plan, but in the hands of the right composer—like George Tsontakis—it can still pack a satisfying punch. Three diverse concertos, one each for clarinet, trumpet and a pair of violins, offer a fascinating window into the American composer’s eclectic style, and an opportunity to hear one of this country’s finest regional orchestras. The Albany Symphony Orchestra, led by David Alan Miller, specializes in American music, but in Anasa, composed for the expressive clarinetist David Krakauer, the players deftly maneuver melismatic riffs of East European klezmer music and inspirations from the composer’s Greek roots. True Colors, for Albany’s trumpeter Eric Berlin, travels through spacious Copland-like tonalities and jazz, while the nostalgic and mood-swinging Unforgettable, for two violinists, finds inspiration in both the Nat King Cole hit and Bach’s beloved “Double” concerto. © 2017 National Public Radio

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, November 2017

Tsontakis brings to us a well structured middle-ground modern series of tone poems that bear up under the familiarity of repeated return aural visits. Performances are uniformly good. The three concerted works show depth, subtlety and a visceral immediacy. Tsontakis has his own voice yet fits in well with the US school of melodically lyrical-depictive composers of the past 100 years. A fine listen! © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Stephen Barber
MusicWeb International, October 2017

Anasa is for clarinet, and Tsontakis was inspired in writing it by the playing of David Krakauer.

I found this work quite delightful and was greatly charmed by the playing of David Krakauer, who can squeeze notes and produce slides and inflections as do klezmer players but, unlike some of them, without rough edges, squawks or occasional duff notes.

Eric Berlin plays with fine control and tone.

With the double violin concerto Unforgettable, …the two soloists are well matched, play with a sweet tone and strike sparks off each other.

David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony orchestra supports these varied soloists with confidence and the performances have been well prepared. The recording is admirably clear and sustains the climaxes without congestion. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Musicalifeiten, October 2017

All three of these works are performed at a fairly high level by all the artists and the recording sounds excellent. © 2017 Musicalifeiten

Andrew Farach-Colton
Gramophone, October 2017

…True Colors for trumpet and orchestra (2012) refers in part to the ‘true’ or ‘primary’ colours of the work’s essential harmonic motifs—colours that are then blended, like paint, to create a broader, richer palette. …True Colors was written for Eric Berlin, principal trumpet of the Albany Symphony, and he plays it vividly here.

Anasa (2011) is the Greek word for breath, and this clarinet concerto comes to life with an audible, animalistic exhalation from the solo instrument. It was composed for David Krakauer, best known for his work with the Klezmatics, and Tsontakis weaves elements of klezmer music into the score. But, as harmonic colours were blended in the trumpet concerto, here klezmer is blended with traditional music from Crete, the composer’s ancestral home. Whatever the mixture lacks in ethnic specificity it makes up for in expressive power and breadth.

Unforgettable, for two violins and orchestra (2013), makes subtle, yearningly nostalgic reference to Nat King Cole’s hit song of that title. The two solo parts, originally written for Jennifer and Angela Chun, are intricately and inextricably woven together, as in Bach’s Double Concerto. But where Bach’s work is like a pas de deux with hands elegantly joined, Tsontakis’s is a sinuous, sorrowful dance of conjoined twins. Luosha Fang and Eunice Kim home in on the music’s sweetly tragic tone and the Albany Symphony play with finesse and emotional heft for David Alan Miller. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Gary Higginson
MusicWeb International, September 2017

The performances are outstanding, especially the soloists who are each well acquainted with the composer and who clearly understand what he requires. It’s good to know that the Albany Symphony Orchestra, which has been commissioning new work for many decades mostly, but not exclusively by American composers, continues to do so. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Jerome Hoberman
RTHK.HK, September 2017

I feel privileged to be able to share with you music of such communicative warmth and seriousness leavened with humor and deep feeling. Like that of so many of his contemporaries, Tsontakis’ music is colorful but unlike theirs, his pallet and textures are darker—deep velvety reds rather than glossy silvers and gold. And it’s about the development of themes and lines, not just colors. He imbues traditional forms such as the concerto, with new life, without the gimmicks both musical and in his titles of some others we have listened to together.

Under David Alan Miller’s direction the Albany Symphony gives Tsontakis everything he could ask for. This CD goes to the very top of my list of new music releases, not only for this year but for the past several. © 2017 RTHK.HK Link to stream of broadcast

Records International, August 2017

Three refreshingly different recent concerti with an appealing blend of styles. Anasa combines Klezmer with traditional forms and instrumental textures from Crete. The lengthy and somber middle movement draws on Klezmer and Greek influences, with a lively cadenza, and the finale is riotous circus music. The trumpet concerto consists of a slow introduction that introduces a motif important throughout the work, and the main body of the piece then explores the coloristic and harmonic ramifications of this gesture, drawing on jazz harmonies and a sense of improvised journey and discovery. Despite the slightly unusual double soloist, Unforgettable is the most standard neo-romantic concerto here, beginning in meditation and encompassing drama and playfulness (the central scherzo, ‘Leapfrogging’ in imitative gestures is great fun), on the way to the jazz-tinged ballad-finale, which takes on an unexpectedly serious mood before subsiding into nostalgia. © 2017 Records International

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2017

Born in the United States in 1951, George Tsontakis was a composition pupil of Roger Sessions at the Julliard School in New York and Franco Donatoni in Rome. The present disc is devoted to three instrumental concertos written in the present century, Anasa for clarinet and orchestra opening in the folk-music world of the Klezmer, made popular around the world at Jewish weddings. It returns in the long central Soliloque when Tsontakis takes us into his world of friendly atonality. We return to the world of Yiddish influences in a brilliant finale that gives the soloist an opportunity to display his dexterity, here obviously much enjoyed by David Krakauer. True Colours is the title of Tsontakis’s concerto for trumpet and orchestra that opens with a short prologue, before the work’s one movement called Magic Act. As if quietly musing and extemporising, the music eventually gives way to jazz-inspired virtuosity that you would enjoy in a late-night jazz club, before the trumpet returns to its muted and introverted world of doodling. Finally, a work for two violins and orchestra, Unforgettable, that takes us back to the world of traditional classical music. Changing Landscapes, the name of the opening movement, is a quiet and animated conversation between the two soloists set in a peaceful orchestral scenario. As a ‘scherzo’ the following Leapfrogging has the two soloists in animated movement as they go their own very separate ways, coming together in a soothing unanimity, before returning to their separate games. The final movement in titled, Ballade, the music in a modern tonality. It does not give the two young American violinists, Luosha Fang and Eunice Kim, a conventional concerto presence, though they are obviously very gifted. An unusual disc of a composer much linked with the admirable Albany Symphony and their conductor, David Alan Miller. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Robert Benson, August 2017

All of the performances are first-class with the dependable David Alan Miller leading the fine Albany Symphony, which commissioned the first two works. …Excellent audio. A fine, important issue in the Naxos American Classics series. © 2017 Read complete review

Records International, August 2017

Unforgettable is the most standard neo-romantic concerto here, beginning in meditation and encompassing drama and playfulness (the central scherzo, ‘Leapfrogging’ in imitative gestures is great fun), on the way to the jazz-tinged ballad-finale, which takes on an unexpectedly serious mood before subsiding into nostalgia. © 2017 Records International  Read complete review

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